IBM Product Center
Company typeSubsidiary
Founded1980; 44 years ago (1980)
Defunct1986; 38 years ago (1986)
FateAcquired by Nynex
ProductsOffice equipment, personal computers
ParentInternational Business Machines

IBM Product Center was an American retailer wholly owned by International Business Machines that sold the company's office equipment, which consisted at the time mostly of photocopiers, typewriters and personal computers. The first store opened in 1980 in downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[1]


External videos
video icon IBM Product Center commercial from 1984, starring William Bogert

The Product Center ran concurrent with IBM's Business Computer Centers, which were demonstration and training centers for the company's products established in the 1920s.[1][2] While these Business Computer Centers were aimed at small and large businesses alike,[1] the Product Centers were aimed chiefly to market IBM's lower-cost office equipment at small businesses and home office buyers.[3]

The Product Centers featured bright red carpet and ceiling speakers that played pop music. Its flagship Philadelphia store in 1981 sold just 17 products: several models of word processors and typewriters, a POS cash register, a dictation machine, a Series III photocopier (the Product Center's most expensive product at the time, which retailed $39,000[4]—$125,537 in 2022) and the newly-released IBM Personal Computer. The IBM PC proved so desirable that it warranted its own table display in the back of the store.[4] The Product Centers later stocked other companies' peripherals for IBM's machines, such as Tecmar's tape drive add-ons for the IBM PC.[5]

Three locations had opened by mid-1981, in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and San Francisco.[3] By 1986, there were 81 locations, 13 of which were in California. In April of that year, IBM sold all their stores to Nynex,[6] a company that had spun off from the breakup of AT&T in 1984.[7] IBM cited low sales compared to their independent authorized computer dealers in their decision to sell the locations. The existence of the Product Centers had apparently been causing friction with these independent dealers, though IBM had not participated in the fierce price wars over IBM's products that the dealers were fighting among themselves.[6] In the words of economist Leonard J. Parsons, who had been evaluating the performance of the Retail Centers for a research article in the years before it closed, "IBM decided that it was a technology company, not a retailer".[7] Nynex renamed these locations as Nynex Business Centers and combined their inventory of IBM products with its own telecommunications equipment.[8][9]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Staff writer (November 18, 1980). "I.B.M. Is Opening U.S. Retail Store". The New York Times. p. D5 – via ProQuest.
  2. ^ Cortada, James W. (July 2017). "IBM Branch Offices: What They Were, How They Worked, 1920s – 1980s". IEEE Annals. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. 39 (3): 9–23 – via IEEE Computer Society Digital Library.
  3. ^ a b Beeler, Jeffry (May 18, 1981). "IBM Opens Bay Area Store, Its First West Coast Outlet". Computerworld. CW Communications. XV (20): 17 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ a b Kleinfield, N. R. (October 31, 1981). "I.B.M.'s Venture into Retailing". The New York Times. p. 2.33. Archived from the original on May 24, 2015 – via ProQuest.
  5. ^ Bermant, Charles (July 9, 1985). "Marty Alpert: Building an Add-On Empire". PC Magazine. Ziff-Davis. 4 (14): 56 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ a b Richter, Paul (April 23, 1986). "Nynex to Buy 81 IBM Product Centers". Los Angeles Times. p. 2. Archived from the original on September 27, 2021 – via ProQuest.
  7. ^ a b Parsons, Leonard J. (2002). "Using Stochastic Frontier Analysis". In Montgomery, A. L.; P. H. Franses (eds.). Econometric Models in Marketing (16th ed.). Emerald Group Publishing. pp. 315–348. ISBN 978-0762308576 – via Google Books.
  8. ^ Strother, Susan G. (July 14, 1986). "Products: Technology". Orlando Sentinel. Tribune Publishing Company. p. 15 – via ProQuest.
  9. ^ Winter, Christine (May 12, 1986). "Nynex Tries Where IBM Failed". Chicago Tribune. Tribune Publishing Company. p. 3 – via ProQuest.

Further reading